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Social Media & Employment

Posted by Denise on 1 May 2011 | 0 Comments

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It was reported in a recent copy of People Management that the public shaming by a national UK newspaper of a British civil servant ‘tweeter’ did not constitute an invasion of privacy.  Apparently said ‘tweeter’ had noted her employer on her Twitter page and subsequently went on to ‘tweet’ scathing comments about her employer.  Her defense was that only her 700, or so, followers would read her comments.  This was rejected by the Press Complaints Council as her comments could be re-tweeted, building up over time to a much larger community who could read her comments.

Unhappy employees do moan, but posting such thoughts on a social media site is, in my mind, different to a whinge in the bar.  As the article suggested, a permanent record is created, the number of people who read it is greater, and there is no control over what they will do with the information. 

This is an emerging issue for HR practitioners and business leaders here in New Zealand.  How do employers manage issues around employees who air negative comments about them on social media sites?  What are the employment intervention boundaries around employees who post up on social media sites their involvement in activities that could compromise the employment relationship? 

It’s a balancing act between people naturally expecting a level of distance and privacy from employer intervention in their personal lives, and employers needing to exercise appropriate action when they perceive an employee has crossed the line and compromised the employer reputation and standards.  Fiona Morrison, employment law solicitor, suggests that employers need to have a social media policy that; explains the do's and don'ts  relating to all social media activity, whether this activity takes place during working hours or not; which states explicitly that breaches of the policy will result in disciplinary action and possibly dismissal; and importantly is applied consistently across the organisation.

Employment Today reported (February 2011) that In a recent ERA hearing (Adams v. Wellington Free Ambulance Service) the Authority appeared to accept that the employer was entitled to be concerned about the Facebook comments of an employee and the impact of those on the employment relationship.  This is good news for employers struggling with the development of social networking and its impact on the workplace.

Nick Mason from Pitt & Moore solicitors will be talking on these very issues on 26th May in Nelson.  If you want to join us go to HRINZ Nelson page to book.

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